Can’t We All Get Along?…Biblical Reconciliation: Part 1

                                             Pastor Charles Morgan

 If I had the gift of being able to speak in other languages without learning them, and could speak in every language there is in all of heaven and earth but didn’t love others, I would only be making noise…Even if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, I would still be worth nothing at all without love I would only be making noise.” First Corinthians 13:2 (LAB)   Rodney King uttered the words in our title as a plea for sanity as Los Angeles experienced a racial holocaust over a Grand Jury verdict exonerating Simi Valley police officers in 1991. Over this last month, as a Pastor in the Church of God In Christ, I have done much reflection on the exchanges between Evangelist Dr. Earl Carter and Presiding Bishop regarding the message on Saturday night of our 2014 Convocation. Other voices have joined in the conversation. To our dismay the wrong message went viral across social media and many of us are bearing the brunt of embarrassment and mockery in the public square.

 First of all I unequivocally love the Church of God in Christ! There is no other Church in the world in which I would rather serve and I am Godly proud of its leadership. Whatever I state is in no way intended to be disrespectful to the leadership of the great legacy of Charles Harrison Mason. We are all capable of making errors of judgment. Paul lets us know in Gal. 2:11-21 that he openly confronted the leadership of the first century Church when they were clearly at fault. He writes in v. 11But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.” And further, Luke makes us aware of a conflict between Paul and Barnabas that he describes in Acts 15:39-41, saying “the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus…v.40 And Paul chose Silas, and departed, …v.41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.”(KJV) They “literally” traveled in opposite directions.

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Can’t We All Get Along?

When Justice Means …”Just Us”

Leonard Lovett, Ph.d

“Those who make peaceful evolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable” are poignant words spoken by the late John Fitzgerald Kennedy, President of the United States of America. After watching this blatant miscarriage of justice displayed before the world in Ferguson and New York, my modicum of faith in the criminal justice system has been crushed. After two parallel federal investigations are concluded, my faith in the American system of jurisprudence is reeling. Rodney King, Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown and now Eric Garnes is reprehensible in a nation that is supposed to be a template to the world what a democratic experiment is supposed to look like. Accused officer Darren Wilson could easily win a Grammy for his well coached testimony regarding the final confrontation with the deceased victim, Mike Brown. He had enough time (three 3 months) to rehearse this speech. The irregular presentation of the case by the prosecutor with a jury of (12) twelve consisting of nine whites and three blacks which was not reflective of the immediate community is troubling. There is a divide among attorneys on the way the case was litigated that reflected racial bias. I will not get into the legalities of the process, I leave that to Mark O’Mara (prosecutor for the Trayvon Martin case and now an analyst for CNN on legal issues regarding deadly force by law enforcement officers). Do you see how the system works? O’Mara has been rewarded for litigating a case that was decided before the trial began by the social media and has become a temporary expert on the legal process. In the social chaos of the moment across the nation with rioting in the street, there exists an element of hope. Most of the demonstrators around the nation are not people of color and are youthful. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once stated that “a riot is the language of the unheard.”…

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Can Nepotism Destroy A Ministry?

                                                                       Leonard Lovett, Ph. D

     Nep-o-tism =  favoritism and patronage based on family relationship. Proverbs 15:27 “He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house…” There appears to be a correlation between greed and nepotism in ministry. When independent  ministries are founded by a single person and their families, there is a tendency to think of the ministry in individualistic  rather than communal terms.  During the early stages of such ministries the musicians, teachers and staff consists of family. As the ministry expands, family members are replaced at the base and move upward toward the seat of power which is the pastoral office. A common trend is to place one’s siblings near the top in order to preserve family lineage.

It is crucial to understand the dynamics and in some instances justifiable reason this is done. In many instances control is the primary motivation for keeping family at the center and the top of the ministry. To be fair it is not wisdom to hold one’s siblings back who too are qualified to lead. On the other hand it is unfair to advance one’s siblings based on kinship and not qualification. Too often it is the latter notion that prevails. When ministry is viewed as personal property rather than the fruit of spiritual labor, it is driven by greed which is a form of idolatry. Once the ministry is fueled and motivated by greed, there are no boundaries or checkpoints sufficient to contain whatever takes place.

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  Dr. Leonard Lovett, Ecumenical Officer of the Church of God in Christ

LYNCHING WITHOUT ROPES: PART 2

   noose  Ferguson, Missouri is a microcosm of every ghetto in America. Ghetto is much more than a physical fact; it is also “a state of mind.” I write to prophetically admonish our youth that slavery is still legal in these United States of America as embedded in the exception clause of the Thirteenth Amendment section 1. “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”If you are wantonly gunned down like Michael Brown or convicted of a crime, you are a candidate for lynching.   Why do you suppose the criminal police force of Ferguson released the tapes accusing Michael Brown of robbery simultaneously with the release of the name of the executioner cop Darren Wilson? The goal is to make the victim the villain, an old worn out overused tactic. Whatever Michael did or did not do, he had a “right to life.” To die with one’s hands up a symbol of universal surrender, from the bullets of an officer who has taken a sworn oath to protect and serve is reprehensible and cannot be tolerated in civil society. We must speak for generations present and unborn. I am incensed and there are no options left but to speak truth to power. What can insure us against the likelihood of such future lynchings with ropes (overt street executions) or without ropes (covert institutionalized violence)?

     There are days I wish I had the option of retiring from the prophetic vocation and becoming a motel manager in the wilderness (Jeremiah 9:3ff), and operate in a silent mode (20:9) indefinitely and never mention God or speak anymore in His name. Perhaps that is one way to avoid undue criticism. Then Jeremiah yields to the “fire shut up in his bones and could not hold his peace.” My primary vocation is to proclaim the Gospel. My secondary task as a trained ethicist is to think critically and prophetically where matters of social justice are at stake. My colleague Dr. Yolanda Pierce, Princeton professor has admonished us with clarity about the danger of a bankrupt theology and its implication for matters of justice.

     It is verifiable that people of color receive harsher sentences for lesser crimes. That people of color are more frequently incarcerated for alleged crimes never committed. Several recent media stories point to the incarceration and execution of people of color due to errors with forensic evidence. I was admonished by a young rising prominent attorney in Atlanta, Georgia decades ago to never enter a court room without legal counsel. Our broken legal system is symbolic of ropes in the closet. Have you noticed that CNN made Mark O’Mara the attorney who represented George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin case, a legal analyst? This is how overt institutionalized violence becomes the norm resulting in structural and systemic injustice. O’Mara was rewarded for defending a guilty George Zimmerman. The ropes utilized were clearly out of sight. O’Mara worked the broken criminal justice system.

     The recent multiple deaths by execution implemented by out of controlled cops, is adequate testimony that it is easy as well as legal for bad cops to misuse their badge by tampering with forensic evidence, weaving a credible narrative and moving on to business as usual. I ask where is the Faith Community? I propose: 1.Build trust between law enforcement and local community 2. Build Coalitions that will create policies that will insure the safety and welfare of citizens and Police 3. Keep open communication between citizens and law enforcement entities. God demands that our voices be heard on behalf of the voiceless until justice rings throughout this land. The Faith Communities must not give up until “Justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Reverend Dr. Leonard Lovett, Ph. D, Ecumenical Officer Church of God in Christ

LYNCHING WITHOUT ROPES

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     The landscape of our nation has been marred by a senseless killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager one day before his entrance into trade school. It is predicted that the police officer who committed this heinous act who was placed on paid leave while the crime is being investigated, is poised to walk free and returned to the street in order to commit further crimes. We may be light years ahead in our technological savvy but prehistoric in our criminal justice system. Our system is not only archaic and broken but suffers from what the renowned Danish philosophical theologian, Soren Kierkegaard, calls a “sickness unto death.” My primary vocation is to proclaim the Gospel. My secondary task as a trained ethicist is to think critically about issues where social justice is at stake. My colleague Dr. Yolanda Pierce has written so vigorously about the consequences of a bankrupt theology and its implication for matters of justice. There is a pervasive and sick mentality among many conservative and neo-conservative whites who live with a dangerous paranoia that America is slowly being taken by outsiders. Black life is devalued and simultaneously feared as populations grapple for turf in our overcrowded urban cities.

     America cannot live without us nor live with us. It is a fact that people of color receive harsher sentences for lesser crimes. That people of color are more frequently incarcerated for alleged crimes never committed. Recent revelations in the media point to the incarceration and execution of people of color due to errors with forensic evidence. I was admonished by a young rising prominent attorney to never go to court without a lawyer. The system is set in such a way that Judges do not respect anyone who enters court without an attorney. Our broken legal system is symbolic of ropes in the closet. Have you noticed that CNN made Mark O’Mara the attorney who represented George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin case, a legal/political analyst? I felt nauseated watching O’Mara making statements about the Michael Brown debacle. Attorney Benjamin Crump who represented Trayvon Martin was given a pass. This is how violence against black life becomes indirectly sanctioned and institutionalized resulting in structural and systemic injustice. O’Mara was rewarded for defending a guilty George Zimmerman. The ropes remain in the closet.

     The recent execution of Eric Garner by choking in NY by out of controlled cops, along with countless other senseless deaths is adequate testimony that it is easy as well as legal for bad cops to misuse their badge, weave a credible sounding story, as the media joins in to validate same. According to credible sources, Michael Brown was never seen in a fight. This corrupt out-of-control cop accused him of attempting to wrestle his gun. By the way, any cop who wrestles women to the ground and headlocks a teenager is a punk and should be removed immediately from law enforcement. I ask where is the Black Church and Black Leaders? Are we too busy majoring in the minors and minoring in the majors? God demands that our voices be heard on behalf of the voiceless until justice rings throughout this land. The Black Faith Communities should remain in the face of St. Louis until “Justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Together we need to tell this nation, “NEVER AGAIN.”

Rev. Leonard Lovett, Ph.D. Ecumenical Officer, COGIC

If It Doesn’t Fit…Challenging an Unjust legal Opinion (October 1995)

If It Doesnt Fit…Challenging an Unjust legal Opinion

Leonard Lovett, Ph. D

The expensive legal opinion rendered by the law firm of Baker, Donelson, Bearman & Caldwell and passed on to the Board of Bishops as a basis for by-passing the November election for a Presiding Bishop, simply does not fit.* It is not what the opinion stated that is crucial, but rather what it omits that is important. Remember lawyers are trained to give you back what you give them. (garbage in…means garbage out). The six questions asked in the document were designed (stacked) to favor the interim Presiding Bishop. The problem is that someone failed to ask the right questions. Page three, paragraph two of the opinion is incorrect and simply does not fit.

The General Board did not and could not create a policy of succession upon the death of    Bishop  Patterson. It is not a law-making body. Bishop L. H. Ford personally pleaded and appealed to the general church in an open meeting to complete his predecessor’s term. What you did not know is that within twenty-four hours Bishop Ford was respectfully reminded that technically he was not the Presiding Bishop. Only the General Assembly can elect a Presiding Bishop. With the mike, money and manpower must really ask why the fear of an election? It does not fit…

The Pattern of Succession of Leadership [Office of Presiding Bishop]Let us review the facts since the demise of Presiding Bishop J. 0. Patterson. On December 29, 1989, Bishop J. 0. Patterson succumbed. On the evening of the day of his burial a special meeting was held at Mason Temple. Bishop L H. Ford stood and verbally pleaded to the general church in an open meeting for the privilege of serving the remaining term of Bishop Patterson. The general church sanctioned Bishop Ford’s request by voice vote, not the General Assembly. The Chairman of the General Assembly was bound by the Constitution to convene a special session for the purpose of electing a Presiding Bishop even though Bishop Ford had been sanctioned only (45) days earlier. On February 15, 1990,Chairman Frank Ellis sent a letter to the Board of Bishops announcing the agenda for the Spring Session (April 3 – 6) of the General Assembly. A special selection was held during a non-quadrennial year. Two years later (1992) Bishop Ford was re-elected.Thus the pattern for succession had been established by precedent. This pattern superseded and overrides any previous charter established and legally renders null and void any legal opinion set forth. Please note that the Chairman of the General Assembly’s agenda was precise and deliberate. The agenda consisted of eight items. They are as follows:

                                        April 3, 1990 Agenda

1. Memorial tribute to the late Bishop J. 0. Patterson, Sr.

2. Election to fill the vacancy on the General Board

3. Receive financial reports from each Jurisdiction

4. Consider several Constitutional Amendments

5. Hear reports from Trustee Board sub-committees

6. Elect the Presiding Bishop

7. Approve two (2) Assistant Presiding Bishops

8. Install new officers

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Don’t Void the Warranty: A Christian Response to the Same Sex Marriage Debate

OPEN LETTER TO THE NATION

 

                                                       Rev. Leonard Lovett, Ph. D, Ecumenical Officer COGIC

DEAR SISTERS AND BROTHERS:

     It is not what President Obama said when he stated his support for same-sex marriage that constitutes the problem in the debate, but rather the timing and framing of the issue within the context of politics as a public policy issue that constitutes the crux of the problem. The president has a right to his opinion as leader of one of the most powerful nations in the global village. We are admonished to render to Caesar what belongs to Caesars and unto God what belongs to God. The family is one of the “orders of creation” fundamental to the perpetuation and maintenance of the human species. It is unfortunate that the Marriage Amendment debate has emerged within the context of politics as a wedge issue thus forcing supporters on each side to make such an important concern an election choice that will ultimately decide the presidency of the United States of America.

     After much reflection I am compelled to agree with the president’s statement affirming the rights of all citizens of our democratic republic to make their marital choice. It was implied that to deny persons the privilege to marry is to violate their basic right to equality under the law. I do not view this debate as a Civil Rights issue. This is a public policy issue with far reaching implications for Civil Rights. Once same-sex marriage is viewed singularly as a Civil Rights issue it is no longer under the purview of Scripture. I will fight for the right of anyone to make the choice to marry whomever they chose even in what they perceive to be a “loving relationship.” As a Christian I am to demonstrate compassion toward such persons. I have been reminded that “compassion is mercy with work clothes on.” The difficulty comes when we attempt to legitimate such a union with the name Christian. As a public theologian-ethicist I am obligated to speak to the moral legitimacy of such a union through the prism of our historic faith. From the standpoint of public policy a civil union is a form of marriage that requires the state to make it legitimate. Marriage as we have come to comprehend it is grounded in covenant which assigns a sense of responsibility and intrinsic worth to the institution of marriage . Within the boundaries of covenant there can be no authentic freedom without moral responsibility. Any attempt to enjoy freedom without moral responsibility leads to anarchy.

     We do not change the rules of the game to accommodate the players. My faith inspires and informs my societal frame of reference. My opinion is secondary to the One who thought me up. As a Christian theologian Scripture is my guide for faith and practice, not what society desires and embraces. When Paul the Apostle admonishes us not to “Be conformed to this world” it is another way of saying not to allow the world to force us into its mold. (Romans 12: 1) In simple Christian language, the world is human society without Christ. The manufacturers warranty on an automobile is intended to be a safeguard against anyone other than the authorized dealer repairing same. The warranty is voided when an unauthorized person tampers with the engine.

     The metaphor is obvious. Historically for Christians Scripture has been our mandate for marriage. However, in a pluralistic society other choices will emerge.   The manual unequivocally states that the sacred union of marriage should exclusively occur between male and female with the hope of procreation, recreation, permanence and uniqueness. . The very institution of marriage is bound by covenant grounded in our Judaeo-Christian foundation of faith. To believe and/or to do otherwise is to alter the original institution and render void the warranty and marriage as an institution could risk will losing its sense of sacrality, character and purpose. Postmodernist thinkers would argue that it is a fallacy to ascribe any meaning to a text or even to the text’s author and views truth as a social construct that is relative. That it is the reader who establishes the meaning, and there are no controls that limit the meaning that can be imposed This is a dangerous posture to leave the interpretation of the text (even Scripture) to even an uninformed reader. There are moral absolutes intended to keep us within the boundaries and framework of being grounded upon some kind of foundation. Without moral absolutes society would become as chaotic as a residential neighborhood without speed limits or constraints. We live in a moral universe that metes out serious consequences for anyone who violates its rules.

     At this juncture in history we can ill afford to allow the same-sex debate to become a wedge issue that will keep us from voting at all. I have had to correct a few African-Americans who have been coerced to believe that a vote for President Obama is a vote against God. A refusal to vote constitutes a vote for the very person you oppose. This is the same kind of flawed reason that gave Bush and the Religious Right four more years in 2004 when right wingers used abortion and the Marriage Amendment as wedge issues and successfully defeated John Kerry and Al Gore. My reading of the history of politics reveals many people honestly believe presidential elections are bought. I suggest that anyone interested in the surge of right wing politics in the sixties with the launch of the ultra-conservative Barry Goldwater in 1964 should read a 1984 book titled Ominous Politics by John S. Saloma III, a Harvard trained political scientist who taught at M.I.T. Millions of dollars were invested in multiple think tanks that gave intellectual validation to the strategies and claims set forth by right wingers. With the emergence of Ronald Reagan in the eighties they were well on their way. The “tough on crime” policies of Reagan that later led to mass incarceration of marginalized persons of color a point well argued by Michele Alexander in her now popular book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in a Color Blind Age. The warehousing of black and brown people of color making them felons for life has a direct correlation with the growth and power of radical right wing politics under the guise of law and order.

   Politics was never intended to dictate the nature and covenant terms of marriage. The role of politics is to make life more humane through organized means. To do otherwise is to violate the purpose of its calling in the world. Until then we are called to witness and challenge the darkness of this world until the light seeps through.

*Disclaimer: The views expressed are not the official views of the Church of God in Christ. I take full responsibility for the viewpoint shared in this brief response as a servant of the church

 

 

Welcome to Owensville: Home of the Forty-Seven Percent

(From the 2012 Presidential Debate)

Meet the Mayor of this town, the Reverend William (Bill) Owens, Director of the African-American Alliance of Pastors (CAAP) a group that appears every four years to denounce democrats. This town shares adjoining city limits with Romneyville where the three (3%) of plutocrats live. As a member of the academy I believe in defining term. A plutocracy is a government or state where the wealthy class rules by exercising power and/or influence. Perhaps the Mayor of Owensville doesn’t know that the Mayor of Romneyville threw him and his little town under the bus when he was video-taped live thrashing the forty- seven (47%) at a Romneyville small town hall gathering. Or maybe, it does not matter since he holds his gatherings every four (4) years concurrent with elections. The Mayor may have provided a reference for the Mayor of Romneyville through one of these powerful groups such as the Arlington Group loaded with plutocrats.

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Keeping the Story Straight: A Response to the Marvin McMickle Interview

Dr. Marvin McMickle may I congratulate you on your ascendency to the presidency of Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School. I read with interest your August interview title These un-united states: A civil rights veteran on politics, power and God, by Tim Louis Macaluso and Mary Anna Towler in the Rochester city paper in Rochester, New York. As a graduate of Crozer Theological Seminary 62’ I am compelled to respond to the post. Dr. McMickle, you discussed a plethora of problems, issues and concerns that affect many of us during these challenging times. Then you leveled a critique of Pentecostal churches with a focus on COGIC in particular, of which I am a member. Please know that I am not averse to criticism of any kind when it is grounded. You ruminated about your journey as a veteran of the Civil Rights era and chided younger persons for their lack of sensitivity for what is happening today. In 1961 during a high point in the Civil Rights era you were approximately twelve (12) years old. You were approximately seventeen (17) years old when you met Dr. King in 1966 in Chicago and nineteen (19) at his demise in 1968. I would be interested to find out more about your arrest with Dr. Abernathy. To fully contextualize your critique would indeed give much more credence to the rest of your amazing journey.

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